The Menzingers

author PP date 04/10/18

While we were away at Punk Rock Holiday a couple of months back, we had the opportunity to complete a number of ad-hoc interviews on the spot. The way it worked was like this: you'd get a heads up maybe an hour before that band X was available for interviews, and then you'd have to do all your preparation and make your way to the interview spot in that time. Not ideal, but we managed to stretch together a few interesting questions for The Menzingers as we sat down with Tom May for a good ten minutes in the scorching summer heat before their show.

Photo credit: Hi and thanks for doing this interview. Could you introduce yourself to the readers?
Tom: Sure. I'm Tom May, I sing and play guitar in the Menzingers. We're a punk rock band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States. So did you just arrive at Punk Rock Holiday just now? Have you been here before?
Tom: We have been here before. We played here five years ago and it was one of the most interesting experiences up to that point because this hotel is so unique. This area is so unique and it's such a beautiful place nestled right next to the river. Very cool. Have you had a chance to explore around this year?

Tom: Not too much this year. I went down to the river and I also found a suspension bridge that kind of crosses a little bit out of the way and then it goes up to the road, and yeah, it's just so beautiful here. There are people parasailing on top of the mountain. I don't know how they were suspended up there, but there are people right up there flying kites. Hang gliding. Yeah, it was fucking cool. Are you going to see some other bands today also?

Tom: Yeah I'm excited to watch it Comeback Kid and Terror for sure. And Mad Caddies. That's great because they're all on the same stage and they're also my favorite bands. Any of the smaller bands at all on the beach stage?

Tom: I haven't looked, I have to check yeah, but honestly I haven't looked to see who's playing. So just a couple of months ago you put out a new single called "Toy Soldier". Is that sort of going to be a prelude to a new album or what's the status there?
Tom: So we realize that back before they were putting out albums and like the 1960s, a lot of times the band's first album was a collection of singles that they had put out before. So we kind of found that really interesting and we saw how a lot of the pop and hip-hop artists are starting to just put singles out. And we went in and we recorded that song and decided that we would put it out earlier this year to kind of keep something new for us, to keep something new for everybody who's listening. So is there a new album on the works then or?

Tom: Oh, we're always working on new stuff. So I don't know if you remember this, but I think it's about five years ago or so when you played Copenhagen in a very small basement called Underwerket. It was a sold out show of like 80 capacity...
Tom: Yeah, I think it was 100 people maybe at most with the guest list. Yeah that was one of my favorite shows. It was crazy. We had never played Copenhagen before. We played in something that begins with an A? Aarhus?

Tom: Yeah it's right across from Sweden. But yeah, that Copenhagen show was so much fun. The sound system actually broke at the beginning of the night and they had to scramble all over the city to find the rest of the PA that would work and our sound guy had to help them to put it all together. It was crazy. I remember in that show, you had actually stopped playing, and then somebody in the crowd started singing the lyrics to "Sun Hotel" and then you came back and actually played it.

Tom: [laughs] Yeah I forgot about that. We did that. Yeah. But I noticed that you don't really play that song so often anymore live. How come?

Tom: I think it's because we have so many songs that we try to play the ones that we released more recently in support of the album or whatever. But a lot of the songs that we have in our rotation that are not as common or as often. "Sun Hotel" definitely up there as one of my favorites to play live. So if we look at your records from let's say from "Chamberlain Waits" onwards. You have that one, then you have "On The Impossible Past", "Rented World", and "After The Party". So there's a clear stylistic evolution: I feel like the old stuff was a lot harder, a bit hardcore rooted, and the new stuff is a little bit cleaner. How would you describe the sound evolution?
Tom: I would say that that observation that is correct for sure. When we used to write those songs, we were slammed in a tiny room. We're usually still slammed into a tiny room, but we were very full of a young energy where we all just want to play as hard and as loud as we can. And as we've gotten older we've come to appreciate the space that can exist within the music more, so you can actually hear each other and we're practicing so you can actually listen to what someone else playing on guitar and say: "oh well, maybe if I played something really simple underneath this or on top of this, it can allow the entire thing to sound really nice and take up a lot of space". So I think as that's happened as we've gone forward we've started to incorporate more of that notion into our songwriting. That and we're just getting a little older and not as angry anymore. Well, not as angry, but not as loud and fast-paced. Sure. I mean you did introduce yourselves as a punk rock band to the readers actually earlier. So do you reckon on future material you're going to keep going more sort of towards the rock style, or are you going back to the bit more faster material?

Tom: Oh, sure. I guess when using labels like that we might... I don't know where we'll go. We'll go on the route of like post-punk bands and some others that have begun to open up. Like not play what you'd traditionally think of as just downbeat stroke chords and kind of let it open up a little bit. So on that note actually, so where are we now going now that the 20s are over?
Tom: Oh man, to bed? Not to bed. Actually, 30s have been a great time, I just turned 32 the other day. It is a much nicer place even though it hurts physically more. It's a place that you can finally take all mistakes and good things you did in your 20s and then apply them to life, so you can actually learn from it. And now it's easier and more easy going to navigate the surprises of the world. Yeah. So is that what the song is about for you? Is there some kind of hidden meaning, you know, a subtext or something like that?

Tom: Possibly. I think you could take whatever you need from it at the time. Hopefully, it will grow into a song that you can take different things from at different points in your life. So what's the favorite show you've ever played and why?
Tom: You know that's a tough one because there are so many areas to judge a show on. There's the novelty of playing in a new place like that show at Copenhagen. Or the intimacy of being really close to a lot of people. Or the opposite of being on a really big stage in front of thousands of people and having a big production that just is very much a sensory overload. Well not overload, but one where you can really be enveloped by the technical aspects of it. But for me, it's been the show that we played in Philadelphia. On the "After The Party" headline tour, because it was a big venue, it was a brand new venue in Philadelphia. It was the largest headline show we've ever played and we sold it out. And our family and friends were there, it was just a really big deal. The energy, the vibe and the sound of the show, everything just fell into place perfectly. What's the capacity of that venue?

Tom: I believe it was 2500. So that's a lot of people So yes, as you mention yourself you play sometimes quite a lot bigger arenas, some festivals and so on. For instance, I've seen you play on the main stage of Groezrock before, and now you're gonna play here on the main stage in front of probably a couple of thousand people at least. And then sometimes you do new places where you play smaller basement style venues et cetera. So how do those shows differ? Is one of them more intense than the other, or?
Tom: At the smaller ones you're a lot closer to people so you kind of share an energy in a different way. It's also more connected and unpredictable. The bigger shows can be unpredictable and that equipment can fail and stuff like that or there's a new aspect of it that you're just not used to. And it is kind of weird to have a lot of people out front that are security people, whose job is to keep people away from you. It's like you're special. But they're also there to make sure that people are safe when they crowd surf and when these people fight and stuff like that. But yeah the smaller shows are sweatier, often in a place that is less comfortable for us. And that is also more reminiscent of what we're more used to for so many years of doing that. And the bigger shows are different in that they're a little bit more impersonal. But we can really take advantage of the sound systems and production stuff that's in place. So it can be really, it's like a new world, it's like new toys to play with. That's really really cool. So another question from one of our readers was: so are you planning to come back to Copenhagen anytime soon? It's been quite a few years since the last one.
Tom: We just talked to our booking agent. Our European booking agent is based in London and he came to our show and we gave him a list of all the places that we want to go next time, and Copenhagen is right on the top of that list. We were supposed to come this time or last time but we just had problems with the scheduling falling into place. Thanks for the interview! I don't have any more questions. Do you have anything you want to add or say to your fans, readers and so on?
Thank you for reading this. And thank you for having us in Copenhagen. Hope to see you next time we go there. Thanks a lot.

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